August 2, 2013

From credit to crayons: Parish converts credit union to preschool

Conventual Franciscan Father Joseph West, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville, blesses the people and the new preschool—a former credit union building located on the parish’s property—on July 14. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Conventual Franciscan Father Joseph West, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville, blesses the people and the new preschool—a former credit union building located on the parish’s property—on July 14. (Photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

CLARKSVILLE—St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Clarksville was in need of a new preschool building. Their old one was just too small to meet their growing needs.

Who better to turn to for finding a building than their own patron, St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint known for finding things?

“We had prayed to St. Anthony for help, but I guess we just didn’t believe that it could ever come true,” says Sheila Noon, principal of St. Anthony School.

St. Anthony delivered.

“Many years ago, St. Anthony’s had a credit union on the property,” Noon explains. “We had to let it go. It was sold 10-15 years ago to a parishioner who used it as a training facility for tax seminars.

“He approached us in January, saying he wanted to get rid of it. It was like the sky opened, and we got a gift from God.”

Conventual Franciscan Father Joseph West, pastor of St. Anthony parish, admits, “I was a little skeptical at first, moving a preschool into an old credit union [building] because I thought it was going to take a lot of renovation. But I was really shocked to see how we had to do nothing.”

The need for a new preschool building came to light as a result of the parish’s recent strategic planning process.

“The preschool is a feeder for our main school and is very much needed,” says Father West. “Plus, in our old [preschool] parents would say, ‘We work all day and need extended care.’ We just didn’t have the facility for that.”

What they had was “a one-bedroom house [on the property], and that’s what we’ve been using for the preschool for 15-20 years,” says Noon. “It was so small we had to limit our enrollment and the extended care that parents wanted.”

With the converted credit union building, there is now the space to meet both needs—higher enrollment and extended care.

“Our extended care is not just day care,” says Bedeva Steuer, teacher of the class for 4-year-old children. “With our extended care, there is also an enrichment program. So when [children] stay all day, we’re building upon what they learned in preschool. Our extended care folks have lesson plans every day that I give them so they can build upon what we’ve done.”

As for higher enrollment, Father Joseph says, “We already have more children signed up than our old facility ever could have handled. When this [building] came along, we were pretty confident we could fill it, and so far we’ve been right, praise God!”

Currently there are 14 children registered for the class for 3-year-old children, which meets twice a week. The class for 4-year-olds has 30 registered students and meets five days a week. Both classes offer morning or afternoon sessions, with a full-day option also available for the older children.

Noon looks for the enrollment to rise, and will hire more assistants in the future. She strives for a 1-to-10 teacher/student ratio in both classes.

But first things first—the building had to be prepared for its new little tenants.

The prior owner vacated the building in early June. Shortly after, Noon, Steuer and many others scurried to convert the building from stark and institutional to inviting and fun.

“It’s a work in progress,” says Noon, “but it’s been exciting.”

A blessing ceremony led by Father Joseph and an open house were held at the renovated preschool on July 14. With Clark County changing to a balanced school year, the preschool opened on July 31.

Noon is thrilled that the preschool will now have its own art room. Previously, the students went to the larger St. Anthony School for art class.

“We have so many more things we can do now,” says Kristi Lynch, teacher of the class for 3-year-olds who will also be helping with the 4-year-olds. “We have different areas for kids to do different things at different times. We can split them up and teach them at their level. It’s just really exciting.”

Many at the open house shared her enthusiasm.

Jacque Singleton, third-grade teacher at St. Anthony School and a member of the parish, recalls both the old preschool and the new preschool when it was a bank.

“I went to kindergarten in the little building. We banked here [in the new preschool] when it was a bank. It’s beautiful now. It’s so big! The little building was so tiny. This is such a blessing.” Her daughter, Sophie, started in the class for 4-year-olds on July 31.

Natalie and Nathan McGarvey are also impressed by their parish’s new preschool.

“I knew it would be nice, but I didn’t think it would be this nice,” says Natalie.

Nathan recalls the building from his days banking at the credit union.

“What they’ve been able to do with it is fantastic,’ he said. “I was interested to see how they’d take it from a bank to a preschool. They did a great job.”

But the real seal of approval comes from their daughter, young scholar Coralee, who attended the smaller preschool last year and will soon enter the class for 4-year-olds.

Her verdict?

“I like it. It’s bigger.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!